Drying East Africa cities bank on mega projects to boost water supply

Friday March 23 2018

Residents of a Nairobi estate queue for water following a prolonged shortage. FILE PHOTO | NATION

By Allan Olingo

City authorities across East Africa are faced with the dilemma of how to provide sufficient water for residents amid inadequate supply while demand is rising.

Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, for example, are now exploring long- term multi-million dollar projects to become water sufficient.

In Nairobi, dry taps are a common occurence largely due to poor supply from the city’s main water source, the Ndakaini dam.

Thus, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) is unable to supply the over four million residents with adequate water, despite having distribution pipes throughout the city.

The current distribution programme ensures consumers get water at least twice or thrice a week based on their residential estate.

“Our supply falls short by over 200,000 cubic metres in a day; the distribution programme ensures everyone has water,” said NWSC acting managing director Nahashon Muguna.


Currently, the NWSC supplies residents with about 525,000 cubic metres of water per day against a demand of 760,000 cubic metres.

The city is now banking on the Northern Water Collector Tunnel project — which seeks new water sources for Nairobi and 13 satellite towns — to boost supply.

Mr Muguna recently said that Ndakaini dam storage had fallen by more than 50 per cent to 34 million cubic metres as a result of poor rains.

“Rationing will continue until the construction of the two dams is complete. According to the master plan of water sources development in the city, completion will be in 2026,” said Mr Muguna.


Ndakaini holds about 70 million cubic metres when full.

With Nairobi’s population rising beyond the five million mark, the projected demand for water in 2020 and 2030 stands at 1.6 million and 2.2 million cubic metres respectively.

It is expected that the Northern Water Collector Tunnel project, to be conducted in two phases, will initially raise the supply of water in Nairobi to 665,000 cubic litres a day from 2020.

The two dams under the project are expected to boost supply in the city by 60,000 cubic litres a day. Karimeno dam will have a capacity of 70,000 litres while Ruiru will supply 30,000 litres.

According to the Water Services Regulatory Board, inefficient management and the lack of consumer orientation as well as a pro-poor policy led to inadequate service delivery and high levels of consumer frustration, which in turn led to more urban poor depending on informal services.

The corporation oversees the implementation of policies and strategies relating to the provision of water and sewerage services.

Dar water hitches

Tanzania hopes to end the problem of water scarcity in the country by 2025.

In November last year, a World Bank report warned that the country risked being water-stressed following a drop in its renewable per capita freshwater resources over the past 25 years, from more than 3,000 cubic metres per person to 1,600 presently.

The decline, the report notes, could reach 1,400 cubic metres per person in the next seven years, well below the 1,700-cubic metres per person threshold that defines water-stressed countries.

“There is a compelling need for the government and all stakeholders to manage this finite resource better. Tanzania’s development ambitions are dependent on water,” said World Bank country director Bella Bird.

The country’s main port city of Dar es Salaam has eased its water burden after the expansion of the Ruvu Juu water plant, which has more than doubled its water production capacity from 80,000 to 195,000 litres per day.

Dar es Salaam is also constructing a 10-million litre water tank at Kibamba as it seeks to resolve the water shortages in the eastern end of the city.

“We are improving the supply of clean and safe water. Our target is to end the problem of water scarcity by 2025. We are now building new distribution networks and replacing the old lines,” said the chief executive of the Dar es Salaam Water Company (Dawasco), Cyprian Luhemeja.

Nearly 40 per cent of the city’s estimated population of 4.5 million people depends on alternative water sources outside of Dawasco’s supply.

Its daily demand stands at 450,000 cubic metres of water per day against a supply of 504,000 cubic metres, but the poor distribution infrastructure locks out almost half of the population from this resource.

The city plans to increase its production over the next two years through 20 new wells with a capacity of 260,000 cubic metres of water per day.

Shortages in Kampala

In Uganda, more than 35 per cent of Kampala’s 1.5 million population experience water shortages, according to the World Bank.

The city’s water holding and distribution infrastructure has been undergoing an upgrade to raise its output to 240,000 cubic metres from the current 190,000 cubic metres by the end of next year.

Two years ago, the Uganda National Water and Sewerage Corporation upgraded the Ggaba plant, which the city depends on for its water supply. It has a production capacity of 65,000 cubic metres.

Rwanda last year completed its key water project, the upgrading of the Nzove I plant, which is expected to add some 55,000 cubic metres to the existing service level.

Kigali is now set to achieve 185,000 cubic metres a day against a demand of 110,000 cubic metres.

Before the upgrade, the city faced a supply deficit of 90,000 cubic metres. Rwanda is looking to achieve 100 per cent clean water supply by 2020. Currently, it is at 84.8 per cent.